One of the most powerful conventional weapons in the U.S. arsenal is making a port call in South Korea.
The Ohio-class, nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine USS Michigan arrived in Busan Friday, according to multiple reports. While the Navy asserts that this is a routine visit, part of a regularly scheduled deployment, the timing is noteworthy.
The USS Michigan visited South Korea for the first time this year in April during a tense period where many suspected North Korea might conduct a nuclear test, triggering a military strike. The submarine’s current port call also comes at a time of great tension between Washington and Pyongyang.
North Korea tested a suspected hydrogen bomb early last month, announcing in the aftermath that it intends to mount the weapon on its Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile. Later, President Donald Trump delivered a heated speech before the U.N. General Assembly, warning that if the North attacks the U.S. or an American ally, the U.S. military will “totally destroy” North Korea. The president’s rhetoric triggered an unprecedented personal response from North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, who threatened to tame Trump with fire.
North Korean officials and state media have claimed that the president declared war against the rogue regime in his speech, although it is not uncommon for North Korea to perceive slights as declarations of war.
The U.S. has sent B-1B Lancers, elite conventional bombers that terrify Pyongyang, tearing past the Korean Peninsula, and North Korea has threatened to open fire on American aircraft that get too close.
In recent weeks, Trump has dismissed negotiations as a practical solution, asserting that North Korea only understands one thing. The president did not clarify his statement, but he may have been referencing pressure, if not the application of military force. The Nimitz-class, nuclear-powered supercarrier USS Ronald Reagan has drilled with Japanese naval forces and will conduct joint drills with South Korea next week.
The 560-foot-long, 18,000-ton USS Michigan is armed with 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles, each with a range of around 900 miles and a 1,000-pound high-explosive warhead. The submarine, which served as a sea-based nuclear deterrent against the Soviet Union during the Cold War, rivals full-sized aircraft carriers in terms of destructive power.
The USS Michigan could theoretically be used for a first strike against North Korea, but there is presently no indication that it was sent to carry out a strike on the rogue regime.
The deployment of strategic military assets to the Korean Peninsula has Pyongyang up in arms and furious. North Korea declared that the deployment of bombers, submarines, and aircraft carriers to the peninsula “compel the DPRK to take military counteraction.” The regime has moved its hand is closer to the trigger, claiming that it will tame the U.S. and its allies with fire.
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